ST. PETERSBURG -- While chaos ruled inside the Rays' clubhouse on Wednesday afternoon, they continued to be a dangerous team under Tropicana Field's Teflon skies.
Despite dealing Wednesday's starter, Nathan Eovaldi, to the Red Sox before he could make his scheduled start, the Rays defeated the Yankees, 3-2. By doing so, Tampa Bay claimed the three-game series before heading to Baltimore to begin a four-game series on Thursday at Camden Yards.
Tampa Bay is now 17-4 at Tropicana Field since June 11, and it is 29-20 on the season at home.
How did the Rays dispose of the Yankees, who entered the game having 13 more wins than the home team? For starters, Tampa Bay pitched well. The surprise came in the fact that it outhomered the Bronx Bombers, a team that entered the series with a Major League-leading 162 home runs. New York did not homer in the three-game series.
"That's tough to do," said Rays manager Kevin Cash of holding down the Yankees' bats. "We all know how good of a team they are and how good their offense is. They are going to hit their home runs, but we've been on a pretty good run pitching. The guys are executing and throwing enough strikes to keep hitters from reaching out, and I think it showed up in this series."
Meanwhile, the Rays hit four big flies, including two in the sixth on Wednesday.
Yankees starter Luis Cessa silenced the Rays' bats for the first five innings until Kevin Kiermaier connected on a 2-1 pitch for his third home run of the season, a two-run shot. C.J. Cron then added a solo big fly off Jonathan Holder to give Tampa Bay a 3-1 lead.
Ryne Stanek started for the Rays, and the team's designated "opener" -- and emergency starter, thanks to the Eovaldi trade -- notched a scoreless inning before giving way to Jaime Schultz, who allowed one run in three innings.
Diego Castillo, Jose Alvarado and Sergio Romo combined to allow just one run while covering the next four innings, leading up to an interesting ninth, which saw Romo start the inning at third base, while Jonny Venters pitched to one batter, before Romo returned to get the final two outs.
"It's just another reminder that we can compete with the best of the best, and that we just have to go out there and execute to our potential," Kiermaier said. "That's something we did today. Our pitching was phenomenal, and any time you hold a team to two runs, you expect to win those games."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
In the ninth, Venters was brought in to pitch to left-handed-hitting Greg Bird, which facilitated a position change for Romo, who took over at third base. After Venters retired Bird on a groundout, Romo returned to the mound to pitch to Miguel Andujar, who got an infield hit.
Aaron Hicks then hit into what appeared to be a tailor-made double play. Unfortunately for the Rays, third baseman Matt Duffy dropped the ball. Romo remained anchored, retiring Austin Romine on a foul popup that saw first baseman Jake Bauers make the catch sliding into the wall. Romo then struck out Brett Gardner to win the game.
"I go back to about 20 years ago, to junior college, I played a little third base," Romo said. "Pretty interesting. The manager walks up to you and goes, 'Hey, you're going to third base.' Just kind of looked at him, and said, 'What?' He said, 'Just go to third base, we'll let you know after that.' … I was thinking, 'Who's batting? Bird's up. So chest out, just knock it down, you've got a shot.'"
Romo called Wednesday afternoon's game a "very, very fun game."
"Very eventful in many ways, many aspects," Romo said. "We got a series win against a really tough team, so kudos to them for coming out and battling. Never an easy thing against those guys, so glad we won."
Cron's 20th home run extended his career high and team lead, ahead of Wilson Ramos (14). Wednesday's homer gave him four in his past 13 games, compared to one home run in his previous 19 games.
HE SAID IT
"I was sitting there eating breakfast right before we went out to stretch -- so probably like 10:20 [a.m. ET] or so, and Snydes [pitching coach Kyle Snyder] came in and asked me how I felt today, and I said, 'All right.' It was left at that, and I was sitting there putting my pants on, and he goes, 'Hey, you're going to start today.' It kind of caught us all off guard, but it's what we do. Just adapt and move on." -- Stanek, on his emergency start
Hunter Wood will start Thursday when the Rays begin a four-game series at Baltimore in a 7:10 p.m. ET contest against the Orioles. Wood has pitched to a 2.77 ERA in eight appearances (two starts) since being recalled from Triple-A Durham. The O's have not yet announced a starter.